Last month, we talked to Merijn Tinga. Merijn is also known as the Plastic Soup Surfer. He raises awareness around plastic pollution in Europe using his surfboard as a weapon. He also created the Pick up 10 app (pickup10.org) to activate others to pick up and photograph litter in their environment. We asked him about how he started this initiative, the activities he is organizing and future plans.
How did you start this adventure?
I am a biologist and an artist. I was always concerned with societal themes as an artist. Then I decided that I wanted to surf a long tour and I wanted to make a statement with the plastic that I would find on the beaches. So that’s what I did: I started an expedition the raise awareness for the plastic soup that we all together create. From the plastic that i find, I make surfboards. The surfboards are the message and I exhibit them.
What is your mission?
The most important to me is to make a difference. With my activities, I am influencing policymakers and I am making society aware of a big problem we have right now. My campaigns are on the one hand focussed on raising awareness among the masses, but also on very concrete steps we could to in order to improve the situation like deposit money.
One of the most important things about my campaigns is the call to action. I started a petition in order to expand deposit money in the Netherlands on plastic products. Furthermore, when I made my tour on my surfboard, I also visited CEOs of big companies. Currently we are making a documentary about plastic to raise awareness.
What is your impact so far?
The most important is the plastic soup surfer petition for the expansion of the deposit money on pet bottles. That petition ended up in the parliament and that created a lot of visibility for my message and the foundation.
We also went with a team to candy producing companies to talk to them about their consumption of plastic. Together we accelerated the process of finding alternatives for plastic wrappings of candy. We are taking small steps in order to make a big difference.
You said we, do you have a community surrounding you?
I am in a team with two volunteers. They are responsible for the program. I am the spokesman of the organization. Our organization is a foundation and exists because of donations, so we do depend on a community supporting us. Furthermore, I am in touch with different policy advisors. I met them through my activities.
What can others do to help you?
People can always make donations or use the pick up 10 app in order to overcome future littering. And try to reduce your own plastic consumption. Take your own mug to your work and take your own bag when you go shopping.
Do you have some advise for others that want to make a difference?
Think big, but start with really small steps. This way you allow yourself to build up your success. Success starts where others stop. Push on and search for small success. From there you are able to build up slowly and you are able to grow further and develop yourself. That is after all what you can do fastest: developing.